As soon as polls closed on 22 May 2014, it became clear that many EU citizens in the UK and across Europe had been unable to vote in the European elections. A coalition of groups and individuals, including European Greens in London and Migrantes Unidos, worked to raise this issue with the media and relevant policy-makers. There’s been some progress over the past months – here is what has happened.
First steps: official and media reports
The coalition that brought together in the #voteDenied campaign, managed to get the UK Electoral Commission to admit that there were problems in the European Parliament elections in the UK (read more about it on the Electoral Commission Report).
“On polling day we received 74 enquiries from citizens EU member states complaining that they had gone to their local polling station and found that they were able to vote in their local election but not the European Parliament election.
Since polling day we have also heard from a number of organisations representing the interests of citizens of other EU member states in the UK, including Migrants United and New Europeans, who have collected information from people affected by similar problems.
Citizens of other EU member states who are resident and registered to vote in the UK have a choice of voting at European Parliament elections in either their home country or the UK. If they wish to vote in a European Parliament election in the UK they must complete a separate declaration stating that they will not vote in their home country.
The ERO mark sthe register used for the European Parliament elections to make clear that only those who have completed this declaration are entitled to be issued with a ballot paper. Those who did not complete the declaration were still entitled to vote in any local government elections which were held on the same day.”
Launching our own investigation
In the UK, about 1 million European citizens, 74.3 % of the total 1,450,433 were considered as non-eligible to vote. Our own research, using data from London Boroughs’ Councils, substantiates our estimate that about 120,000 potential voters were actually prevented from voting at British polling stations.
We have agreed with the Electoral Commission to work on solving this problem at its source and we are looking into meeting with the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee of the Parliament, and the Law Commission to discuss this issue.
One of us, Christian Heischt, has filed a petition regarding this problem with both the European Commission and the European Parliament. The European Commission has replied that
“The Commission has therefore contacted the UK authorities to obtain clarifications on the problems reported as regards the participation of EU citizens in the 2014 EP elections”.
However, no answer has been received from the European Parliament as of the date of this blog post.
You can find all the recommendations to the Electoral Commission in the DeniedtheVote.org site. The most important are:
– Registration on the electoral roll should be simplified and harmonised by removing the current two-step process compulsory for some UK residents.
– No person should be removed from the electoral register unless they request to be removed or their circumstances change considerably, e.g. because they moved abroad.